Steering Toyota design
from a global
perspective

Simon Humphries
General Manager

At Work

Giving customers the cars they enjoy

If I were asked to give one example of something that Toyota can be proud of, I would say that it is continuously striving to respond to customer needs. In today's world, customer values are continuously diversifying. People expect more from their vehicles, not only in a functional sense, but also from an emotional and self-expressive point of view. Tremendous effort is being directed into creating cars that will meet these diverse and somewhat contradictory needs with products that are not only unique and exciting, but also relevant to each and every person's chosen lifestyle.

Personal Time

Don't waste Japan!

True design originality is more often than not based on one's heritage and culture. I honestly believe that designers should draw more actively on their own cultural background to act as a trigger for new creativity. The result of this approach is one that has greater depth and authenticity, and as a result cannot be reproduced or copied by others. Over the years I have had many discussions with the Japanese members of staff on this subject, and I always try to convince them to be more confident and aggressive in looking inward to find new ways to approach design. It is important they realize that the global community has a great respect for Japanese culture and aesthetics. How we convert this know-how into tangible and unique car design is critical to the future of Toyota design. The logical extension of this way of thinking is the j-factor concept promoted now by Toyota design.

The j-factor — an approach created by Japanese and non-Japanese together

The "j" of j-factor of course stands for Japan. It is not about superficially copying the forms of old, rather it's about understanding the factors and sensibility that lead to those creations. Often successful Japanese design is based on the synergy of seemingly competing aims, think small yet functional, simple yet intriguing, Globally, I believe that people have come to expect this "magic" from Japanese products, and it is essential that we work to convey this value though our design. Perhaps one interesting point about the j-factor approach is the enthusiasm for it from the foreign members of the design staff. Perhaps it's easier to see the potential value from an outside vantage point rather than one on the inside, as is the case for Japanese designers. The phrase itself j-factor actually proposed by TEDD, our European design office!

Japanese culture now an indelible part of my being

I only meant to stay in Japan for two years really. That turned into five years, then ten years, and before I knew it I had been here 17 years. In the long time I've lived here, I've come into contact with many different facets of Japan. One of these is Aikido. The movements of Aikido are beautiful, but at the same time they are very boldly executed. Great power is released with ease. When we were working on the concept of the TOYOTA DESIGN, I thought about Aikido. Beautiful, but transmitting a sense of power. Presented in a natural form with no forced elements. A calm and composed appearance which holds an inner strength. Aikido and design. At first appearance the two seem completely unconnected. But the human movements and power that can be seen this martial art can stimulate the character and form of products. I first came into contact with Aikido after coming to Japan, but since then I have come into contact with many other different aspects of Japanese culture, all of which have left, to one degree or another, an indelible impression on me over the last 17 years.

Interviews


  • Simon Humphries
    General Manager


  • Yuji Fujiwara
    Exterior Designer


  • Akira Matsuda
    Clay Modeler


  • Masaki Motozaki
    Designer


  • Kazuo Horibe
    Wood Modeler


  • Keiko Shishido
    Color Designer